So, yes, I was just here less than a year ago. Please read the previous Kyoto travel blog, then come back here. This time we spent more than a half day in Kyoto, and while I didn’t come in with a ton of expectations, Kyoto won me over a little more. Now, my experience of Kyoto will be atypical: coming at the beginning of what would later become a worldwide pandemic, made Kyoto somewhat vacant from it’s normal tourist business. Gion, the geisha district was certainly not busy, nor were many of the tourist spots. In fact, it was downright empty at Kinkakuji, otherwise known as the Golden Pavillion. There were moments where we had it all to ourselves it seemed. That was pretty magical. So onto a more nuanced understanding of Kyoto, and Japan.
I will say that there’s a ton of cultural things to see in Kyoto – including temples, castles and museums. You literally can’t walk a dozen blocks without seeing a temple which is likely older than your country. And it will all seem a bit overwhelming after a while, and maybe a bit repetitive. Then you’ll leave and wish you were able to do that one more thing – whether it go to Arashiyama and see the bamboo forest, or up to the Monkey Reserve, or over to Fushima Inari to see tori gates… and on it goes. I can’t imaging covering it all in less than a week, and then you might be over it.
We were also lucky to get to see the Tenjin-san Flea Market at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, which provided an opportunity to dig for records (I did find a few singles that could’ve been resold, and some classic 70’s rock from Japanese artists) and some kaiju. We ended up going to see the temple, but the flea market took up most of the day – from about 11 to 4, and we could’ve easily seen more at the market and temple.
I will say, that Kyoto paid off in spades this time for punk and hardcore; of course, having four days rather than a half will get you more opportunities than usual. Again, maybe the lack of international tourists helped, or I just came at a good time. Last time I saw that I was preceeded by two European stores and at least one US one, so by late March, some of the better records were gone. Here’s where I hit up, and what was worth it.
Super Milk was a few blocks from our hotel, so it was pretty cool to be able to hit up a spot close by. I didn’t do any record shopping the first few days (after all I did go a little overbudget in Tokyo) however, this first spot nearly blew my mind. As normal, I walk in and scan the stuff behind the counter. My heart skips a beat. Nightmare – Give Notice of Nightmare. Now while this isn’t some super rarity – you can score it on Discogs pretty easily, but in the wild, it is a pretty rare sight. So I did what any nerd would do, I went to find the new wave/punk section. After flipping through and getting Adam Ant – Kings of the Wild Frontier (Japanese pressing of course; I’ll pick up variations on the cheap for Kate because she really digs the records and I dig variations) I pull that and walk back to the counter to ask to see Nightmare, and then notice Aburadako’s first on ADK! Well, damn, there goes the budget in 15 minutes. I ask to see both, navigate in broken English and Japanese through the transaction, complete the sale, and the the fellow working there asked, “Do you like Aburadako? I have more” and points to a box in front of me. Damn… if it isn’t the fourth LP (with no OBI, but still) and some Laughin’ Nose on AA (with a promo picture and Pon and Charmy autographs stuck in the sleeve).
Next up was three shops all in the same block, Workshop, 10000t, and Hot Line.
I went to 10000t first, and it is a much more indie rock feel, but basically a generalist shop with a fair bit of rock and jazz. With that said I grabbed Forward – Just Go Forward to Death LP (original pressing, yes!) and Gastunk – Mr Gazime 7″. Small shop, worth a browse and well curated. Upstairs from 10000t was Workshop, which was a little bigger with more variety. Again, jazz and rock focused, but had some more stuff on the walls that was pretty interesting: including The Stalin – 虫 – which I had already gotten in the mail, but this was one priced better, and in better shape so I’ll be selling off the one that I had sitting at home for sure. When I went up to the counter the owner (I assume) asked what I was looking for, to which I respond “old punk, hardcore like Gauze, Death Side, etc.” He responds with “Like Swankys?” Dumbfounded I was like “Sure, yeah!” So off we go to the back of the shop, and behind some boxes, he pulls out a box of Swankys, but more importantly, Gai-Extermination flexi. I flip through the Swankys and to be honest, I’m not that into them, but if I can get the Gai cheap enough (it’s not pristine, but many of these aren’t because of the slightly oversized sleeve and flexis aren’t the most durable) but for the equivalent for $40 US, I’ll take it. I was gobsmacked with my luck today.
If you weren’t aware shops in Japan are often stacked up – it’s not uncommon to have a restaurant on the sixth floor, a hair salon on the second. So don’t expect record stores to have prime real estate -they are often hidden and up a few floors. Look up! You’ll never know what you’ll see.
Lastly I went to Hot Line, which seemed like a CD shop, so I was in the mindset to look for CDs, but it was a vinyl shop, well organized, but not North American sized. There were a couple aisles I just couldn’t fit into. Didn’t grab anything too exiting, a Mission of Burma LP and Better than a 1000 2×7″ from their Japanese tour in 1997 or so. It was only $15 or so, so no big deal.
So after the high of getting a Gai flexi in the wild for a reasonable price, I felt, well, let’s walk back to the hotel, because we’re not that far and I don’t know the bus routes all that well, and you never know what you’ll see. What I didn’t realize is that I walked back to Super Milk within 15 minutes! I did see that there was a record store across the way in the morning when we were walking around the shotengai (covered shopping street). Pocoaloco was my last stop. I did think, well, I can’t end up with anything amazing here? I must’ve drained my goodwill, surely. Now, indie rock stores tend not to do well with me. I don’t have patience with well curated – I want to dig a little. However, I was browsing and my eye caught a interesting looking record and behold it was Hawkwind – Silver Machine 7″ – of course Japanese pressing. Typically I don’t drop coin on Hawkwind records, if they’re $10 – 15 OK, but my favourite song? Ahhh what the hell. When am I ever going to see it again?
Despite being in Kyoto for four days, we didn’t really have a sit down meal more than twice. Once was conveyor belt sushi, Kaitenzushi Chojiro near Shijo-dori close to closing time (sushi was really good just not a lot of selection), and the other was a rather unmemorable teppenyaki – that’s not to say it was bad, it wasn’t just in the wildly memorable meals I’ve had in Japan. We did do a lot of grazing, at a market that we spent close to half a day at, to general Gion touristy stuff. The one thing that we did do fairly often as it was damp and cold a couple of the days we were in Kyoto was drink coffee, and man, there’s some good coffee in Kyoto. Outside of the Latte Art Junkies Roasting Shop 2nd (LatteArtJunkiesRoastingShop 北野天満宮店) which had the best coffee I may have had in Japan. We did find the Umaibo snacks that we were looking for, and ended up with a giant bag of them to snack on throughout the rest of the trip. Here’s the map: